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First Look

Big news on the astronomy front:

World’s largest telescope to make first observations Friday

The world’s largest telescope will take its first peek into the heavens this week, ushering the University of Florida into the top ranks of the “big observers,” as one astronomy professor put it.

The Gran Telescopio Canarias, or GTC, under construction in Spain’s Canary Islands for the past seven years, will hold its “first light” opening ceremony Friday.

The roughly $175 million GTC is not yet complete. Only 12 of the 36 mirrors that together will compose its 34.1-foot primary mirror have been installed, Dermott said. The rest are expected to be mounted this year, with the telescope’s grand opening — to be presided over by King Juan Carlos I of Spain — set for next summer. Only after that date will scientific-quality observations begin.

grantelescope.jpg

The Gran Telescopio Canarias while still under construction in 2002

The Crown Prince of Spain will be on hand to take that all-important first peek. He'll be looking at Polaris, so don't expect any big discoveries to result from this initial outing. Right now it looks like we're a little heavy on the ceremony and light on the science, but that will change as more of the mirrors are put in place.

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